When Ellen Sinopli curated last year’s Next Move: Festival of Modern Dance, she hoped it would be the first year of what would become an annual event.
Sinopoli, the founder and director of the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company, got her wish.
This weekend the festival returns, bringing four very different dance companies to the Proctors stage.
On Friday evening, the New York City-based duo of Bridgman/Packer Dance will take the stage first, followed by SCRAP Performance Group of Philadelphia. On Saturday, Jonah Bokaer Dance performs, and Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company closes out the evening.
Sinopoli said she hopes that audiences will come out for both nights of the festival so they can experience all four companies.
“I wanted to show the real depth and variety that exists as far as choreographic vision is concerned in modern dance,” she said of this year’s program. She also wanted to choose companies that don’t usually perform in the Capital Region and to feature one group that will be presented at Jacob’s Pillow this summer. This year, that’s Jonah Bokaer Dance of New York City.
Next Move: Festival of Modern Dance
WHERE: GE Theatre at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Friday (Bridgman/Packer Dance and SCRAP Performance Group) and Saturday (Jonah Bokaer Dance and Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company)
HOW MUCH: $25 for adults, $15 for students (with ID)
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman make up Bridgman/Packer Dance, a company that integrates the couple’s live performance with technology.
In the piece “Under the Skin,” for example, life-size video images are projected onto their bodies and costumes. At one point, there are 20 of them on stage, two live, and the rest projections. “His body can be projected onto me, so I’m half man, half woman,” Packer said.
“I think our work is a lot about perspective, scale and identity,” Bridgman said.
The work is set to music by Boston-based saxophonist Ken Field. “He plays many different layers of saxophone tracks and explores how they interact with each other,” Bridgman said. “We try to think of paralleling the layering of live and virtual imagery with the same layering of musical track that in a very interesting way play off of each other,” he said.
A second work, “Carried Away,” set to a commissioned piece by composer and percussionist Glen Velez, explores the desire to be carried away and to get carried away. The dancers’ shadows are projected onto a translucent wall of hanging fabric.
“When our shadow image is projected, our images can be distorted,” Packer said. “It allowed us to, in a very playful way, work with an altered perception of existence.
“In both pieces, we’re interested in looking at different levels of consciousness and different ways of perceiving existence.”
Detached from earth
Also taking the stage Friday is the dance-theater company SCRAP Performance Group. SCRAP will perform “Tide,” which has been in development over the past four years and explores the concept of eco-psychosis, the deterioration of the human soul caused by human detachment from Earth.
“What eco-psychosis is thinking about is how sane are we if we are destroying all the things that we need to survive,” said Madison Cario, who directs the company along with partner Myra Bazell.
She stresses that “Tide” is not preachy. “Specifically, this piece is not a crusade for the environment,” she said. “It’s not a piece about saving the world; it’s a piece about saving ourselves–discovering a feeling of connection.”
The couple created this piece, which is post-modern with some Butoh influences, in collaboration with the dancers, exploring their values, as well as the values of their grandparents. “That brought us to a dialogue around our relationship to the earth and how we value the things that we owned then, and how things have become very disposable now,” Bazell said.
On stage are five dancers, who give the impression of being in a boat, with Bazell portraying the part of what she describes as a “maniacal narrator.” They convey their message through dance and narrative. “The movement itself reflects their characters and their grandparents and how they’re dealing with being on this vessel,” Bazell said. In the second half of the piece, they land on what is the last patch of land.
“There’s a disintegration that’s happening to them, that they’re experiencing psychologically — they’re falling apart,” she said. Their physical movements mirror this disintegration. “They’re emotionally falling apart, and the earth is kind of falling apart around them, and that’s also reflected in some of the text,” she said.
The costumes, designed by Irina Kruzhilina, also help to tell the story. They’re distressed — intentionally worn out, and they could represent ancient times or a post-apocalyptic future. “You get a sense that these women come from a culture and they were thrown together and bond through this journey of traveling through time together,” Bazell said. They end at the same place a “precipice of time, which is the end of an old way of being in this world and perhaps the beginning of a new one.”
The work might sound literal, but Bazell and Cario said that it is very abstract, leaving a great deal of room for the audience to bring its own interpretation to what it sees.
On Saturday evening, Jonah Bokaer Dance is the first to take the stage with “Recess,” a constantly changing work that is a collaboration between Jonah Bokaer and artist Daniel Arsham.
Adam H. Weinert and James McGinn perform the piece, working with a 12-inch roll of white paper, which undergoes 19 performance and sculptural transformations, all involving movement and visuals, Bokaer said. The combination of movement and visual art is intended to engage the audience in a deeper way than either of those art forms could by itself.
Arsham describes his motivating concepts for the designs as “folded architecture, folded history, folded space, folded stage,” and “folded body.”
During the piece, which is performed in silence, Bokaer and Arsham want the audience to be reflecting on things like collapse, expansion, explosion, single/multiple, rational form versus natural form, time, broken time, rules and broken rules.
The company will also present “Trophy,” the first part of a three-part work called “Three Cases of Amnesia.” This solo weaves dance and media in the form of digital choreographic software and 3D animation.
Three works by Sinopoli’s company finish the evening. The first, “To Sing, Laugh, Play,” set to selections from “John’s Book of Alleged Dances,” premiered this past January.
Sinopoli said that every time she debuts a new work, she likes to assess it and analyze it. “Doing it here at this festival gave me the opportunity to do it very quickly while it is still fresh in my mind. We’ve tweaked it and strengthened it,” she said of the work, which is marked by athleticism and serendipitous movements.
There will also be the solo, “Tiamat,” named for the goddess of the primordial waters. “To me, it represented this real power and strength that the female body could have on stage when it moved,” Sinopoli said.
“Sepia,” set to Aaron Copland’s five-movement suite “Music for the Theater,” is for five women and danced in five parts, each with a different kind of energy. Sinopoli originally choreographed this work for the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra in 2008 and fell in love with the music when she did. “We’re excited to be able to bring that piece back up,” she said.
Each choreographer will have 45 to 50 minutes of performance time, which Sinopoli feels will give the audience a good sense of their work. “I think each choreographer is going to offer to the audience a new and very different experience,” she said.